This story serves a few purposes: it proves to a friend that I am capable of writing Padmé into a story, it avenges much of my frustration with the love of the other Satine’s life, and it answers a rather difficult ethical question that had been bothering me for a while, viz: why is it considered wrong for Anakin to love Padmé, but not as wrong for Obi-Wan to love Satine? The answer’s in here, see if you can find it.
Glancing references to Karen Miller’s Wild Space, very heavy reference to the Battle of Sundari. Watched that blasted clip until I could recite it word for word. Still very annoyed with the idiotic voice-actor in question. Borrowed a joke from Valairy Scot’s When Dead Is Alive, much as I usually dislike her work – too much innuendo for my tastes. Borrowed some psychological theory from John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief.
Maul was not dead. That had been shock enough when the news was permitted to filter down through the family, and Anakin had recovered first.
“If you were Knighted on the basis of killing a Sith, Obi-Wan, and now it turns out you didn’t kill him…” Obi-Wan had laughed, albeit a touch uneasily, but Master Mundi scoffed at Anakin’s suggestion – and asked if Master Kenobi could possibly be spared for a minute to come to the communications room, as Duchess Kryze –
He had set down his cup so hastily it fell off the edge of the table, splashing greenish-clear tea across the tabletop and the floorboards, and was out the door even before the cup shattered on the floor. The stunned silence, the soft clatter of porcelain fragments returning to the ground, and the steady drip… drip… drip of tea onto the floor, all echoed in the Padawans’ minds, along with the final slam of the door, the final time they saw their Master before he went away to Mandalore.
Obi-Wan had been gone nearly a month, and Master Mundi had stopped asking every other hour whether or not he was back yet. Nasriel spent almost the whole time in the laboratory, examining explosive residue from the terrorist attack on the Central Court complex the previous year. When the transmission had first come through from Duchess Kryze at Mandalore, and Obi-Wan had been gone within the hour, she had worried – tried to be reasonable – begged – considered going after him herself – considered asking Anakin to go after him – but eventually, reluctantly, resigned herself.
This wasn’t like the Blue Shadow case, when an assigned mission had gone wrong, and other Masters had intervened. However concerned, however afraid for her Master she might be, it was not a Padawan’s place to question her Master’s judgment, not her place to leave the Temple when Obi-Wan had specifically ordered her to remain. So Nasriel buried herself in work, refused to think about the danger at Mandalore – until blackened fragments of a crashed citibike that had been caught in the explosion and hurled onto a rooftop appeared in the analysis tray. And then she went away rather rapidly, to be sick.
It was almost noon of a dull, cold, overcast day, and Nasriel had fallen asleep waiting for a finicking test to finish running, when a blue flicker from the holotransmitter mounted by the door added itself to the dead grey light filtering in through the blinds. The Padawan woke abruptly and made her sleepy way toward the transmitter.
“Ana – Master Skywalker. What’s up?”
“Obi-Wan’s back.” Anakin, grim and grimy, was talking via a wristlink – and by the look of his surroundings, trying to fix something. “The girl died. You might wanna – I mean, I’m offworld as soon as I fix the fuel injection systems on the Midnight, or I’d – Ben’s in class or something and I can’t raise him by comm, and I don’t know if he’d understand anyway. Look, go home, kid. Right now.”
“Is Master Obi-Wan okay?” Nasriel asked, half-hoping the answer would be no, half-hoping he would have to stay in the safety of the Temple, even if only for a few days.
“He’s not medcenter-injured if that’s what you mean. Witch, I’m not kidding. Leave whatever you’re doing, and go home now.”
Pausing only to log the test results into the database and change her lab overall for an everyday tunic, Nasriel raced home, but skidded to a sedate walk on reaching the Council wing: at this hour, anybody could be about. The door to the Kenobi quarters wasn’t locked, and slid open at the slightest nudge. Inside, Obi-Wan’s pack and boots lay discarded on the floor, his cloak flung untidily over the table. Noticing the lock symbol showing on her Master’s door, Nasriel shrugged, and headed aimlessly for her own room.
It was the crash from the direction of the main room that startled her out again: the crash that was shortly followed by another. Studying the outward dents on the locked door, in mounting alarm, Nasriel knocked.
“Are you okay?” No answer. “Now see here, I’m not your Master nor yet your mother, but chaul’thu trmanni, I’m worried for you, all right? So, Ae’enn Narshala, you tell me you’re all right, or you open this iyada yrelt door, v’ben alxixian!”
The lock snapped open, and the door slammed back against the jamb. Obi-Wan stood on the far side of the room, countenance set in a scowl, fists clenched.
“Since you won’t let me lie – she’s dead; do you think I’m all right? Do I look all right?”
“Duchess Kryze? Is dead?” Nasriel said in polite bewilderment, “I’m sorry the mission failed, Master, but -”
“I… loved her. The last thing she said was that she loved me. And you talk about the mission, you heartless marble harpy? I should-” Suiting action to unspoken words, he stormed across to the door, caught Nasriel by the shoulders, and shook her until her teeth rattled. When the Padawan managed to collect two thoughts to rub together – along the lines of if that’s how you want it – she tilted forward and rammed her head into his solar plexus, with all the force and effectiveness of a punch.
Abruptly, he let her go; bent to pick up the book that had been flung at the door and straighten its ruffled pages.
“I’m sorry, Nasriel.”
Nasriel managed a weak laugh. “Dear Force, after ‘Roni died I was ready to hit anything that moved. No problem, Master.”
Moving away to the window, still smoothing out crumpled sheets of flimsi, he seemed to forget Nasriel was there in the doorway, and went on talking, quietly, with a note of pleading in his voice.
“Why was it so wrong for us? I didn’t want both – I would have left the Order if she had said the word. I left her because she didn’t say it. What was so wrong? Anakin thinks – oh, I saw, that day in the arena. He didn’t know Padmé was waiting at the medcenter until I sent her home. Why did I bother? I tried so hard to do the right thing, and now Satine is dead and Padmé… is not.” As the book would bear no more tidying, Obi-Wan turned to put it away, and turning, saw Nasriel standing in the doorway. “What, are you still here spying?” he demanded harshly.
“I came back to ask if I might have permission to go out for an hour,” Nasriel submitted meekly, coming to a snap decision. He had mentioned Padmé and Anakin, but Anakin was gone. Very well, if allowed, she would go to Senator Amidala – for information, counsel, help, whatever the Senator was prepared to give.
“Go wherever you please – get yourself killed if it amuses you – but leave me alone.” A deeper umbra slid over Obi-Wan’s already shadowed face, a spasm of fresh pain that did not altogether pass away. “I could kill Maul for this,” he whispered. “Force knows he’s killed me.”
Nasriel slipped away, to borrow a citibike and ride to Senator Amidala’s penthouse apartment near the Senate.
The Senator from Naboo greeted the Padawan gravely. “Padawan… Threeb, is it not? Is everything all right? I’m delighted to see you, of course, only a little puzzled.”
“You’re very kind, milady. But I would venture to say that no, everything is not all right. Master Kenobi was on-mission, and –”
Padmé raised one hand to silence Nasriel. “Padawan, I may not be cleared for this. Do you have permission to discuss it with me?”
“No,” Nasriel confessed miserably. “But it’s not really classified, I swear, and Master Obi-Wan wouldn’t mind my telling you, he trusts you… and you’re the only one I can go to for help.”
The lady nodded. “Then you must sit down and explain what I can do to best help you.”
Sipping slowly the glass of fruit juice brought to her by the Senator’s golden protocol droid, Nasriel struggled to find the loose end of the problem, the proper starting point for an explanation.
Eventually, Padmé said gently, “You mentioned a problem with a mission. What was the mission?”
“Duchess Satine Kryze. He went to protect her. The Death Watch were – are – controlling Mandalore. And – and Duchess Kryze is dead. And I think he was – I mean, he was! – in love with her, and he’s gone all to pieces. And he said something about you and Master Skywalker, but Master Skywalker’s offworld… so I came to you,” Nasriel said, starting to wonder if she had done the right thing after all. Since she didn’t understand even the beginnings of that kind of love, let alone the crashing finality of its ending, she needed advice from someone who might know. But why –
“Why me, not another Jedi?” the Senator was enquiring, asking the question Nasriel had already begun to ask herself.
“Because the Council didn’t want him to go, so any of them will say it’s all his own fault. And Master Tachi would get all stiff and offended and Master Muln would laugh, and… Padmé, what am I going to do? He’s not like himself at all, it’s awful.”
Padmé stood and began to pace back and forth. “I should not have been told this. I should not know this. But if, as you say, it was I or nobody, I think it’s all right. It won’t go any further. As to help. One of the many things I have long admired about Obi-Wan is that despite all he has suffered and lost – and I doubt, Padawan Threeb, that either of us knows the half of it – he has never become bitter, and always tried to do right regardless of the cost to himself. You could remind him of that. Or you could accept that grief hits everybody differently, and that these things take time. I’m sorry there’s not more I can do.”
“Thank you.” Nasriel did not ask the blunt question that was gnawing at her mind, but instead raised the topic in more general terms. “Senator, as a… civilian, if you will, do you believe it is wrong for a Jedi to fall in love?”
“As a civilian,” Padmé answered, sitting down beside Nasriel and contesting her politician’s skill in reading expressions against the Jedi talent for complete impassivity, “I can only give a very general answer.”
“A love that descends into obsession or distrust, a love that becomes controlling, is evil, because it ceases to be love. A love that distracts from what one ought to be doing… one ought to reconsider one’s priorities, and abandon either the duty or the love. But any love that makes anyone a better, kinder, nobler person is an absolute good. Does that answer your question?”
“Thoroughly.” Glancing at her chrono, Nasriel jumped up. “I’d better go.”
“Yes. Grief is an uncongenial companion with which to be alone for long. Please convey my condolences to Master Kenobi.” When Nasriel had reached the door and was on the verge of departure, Padmé added, “Nobody shall hear of this meeting from me. May the Force be with you, Padawan Threeb.”
When Nasriel regained the warm familiarity of the Temple, it was dusk, the sun not so much setting as fading reluctantly away behind the heavy clouds. After the blaze of electric light in the corridor, the quarters seemed dark and neglected, lit only by the cold blue twilight that filtered in through the open balcony doors, and a damp chill lingered in the air. Shivering, the Padawan went to slide the transparisteel doors shut, but a voice spoke out of the darkness, and she found that she was not alone.
“That was quite an hour.”
“The traffic was backed up past the Spiral, Master,” Nasriel explained, scanning the room, trying to find him. Obi-Wan sat huddled in a corner, knees drawn up, face buried in folded arms.
“It’s so cold.” The muffled words, and the tone, were flat, dead, unmarked save by shuddering despair.
“It’s midwinter, Master, and the thermostat’s off, and the window’s open,” the girl replied shortly, remedying both the deficiencies that fell within her power to do so. “Have you been hiding in here all afternoon?”
“Ben came. I sent him away. He couldn’t understand. He’s never lost anybody, and while I’m glad that’s the case, I can’t bear…” The sentence trailed off unfinished.
“Do you want me to go away?”
“No – please stay. I can’t… do this alone anymore.” Obi-Wan had raised his head to talk, but now let it fall back into his arms, and his shoulders jerked convulsively with suppressed sobs. “I could have saved her. I could have saved her.”
“How?” Nasriel demanded fiercely. “I’ve seen you in battle, Master. I know if there was anything you could have done, you would have done it.”
“I could have – there were only five of them in the room. I could have broken his hold, or taken the darksaber, or – or something. Oh, blast it, it’s all over and finished now; I was a coward and Satine died for me. But I’ve got my next mission: I’m after Maul. This doesn’t end until he dies or I do.”
The steely menace of Obi-Wan’s words, the cold determination, almost frightened Nasriel, but she fought to answer calmly. “That’s fair. A murder for a murder. And maybe Duchess Kryze would have agreed. Maybe. But Master, we’re Jedi. We have to rise so very far above what is merely fair. We have to do what is right. You taught me that.” The room had grown darker, and the streetlamps far below in the city were beginning to ignite. Drawing the blind down, Nasriel went to switch on the small lamp above the countertop. “Do you want a cup of tea? Caf?”
“I was hoping you might have access to something stronger.”
“I’ve got a bottle of grain spirits from Tara at Malastare,” Nasriel ventured. “But it’ll give you an awful headache if you aren’t used to it.”
“I want a headache,” Obi-Wan spat, scrambling abruptly to his feet. “It might give me something else to think about, instead of replaying the same minute over and over until…” He shivered. “Oh, Force, what a mess.”
Nasriel set a blue glass bottle on the countertop, and clattered two cups down beside it. “A liter at ninety-five percent – and I don’t mean proof. It’s yours if you want it, Master. But I think I should warn you of something: sorrow doesn’t drown easily. It holds its breath until you think you’ve killed it, then comes back stronger than ever the instant your control slips. Up to you.”
“I’ll risk it.” Obi-Wan poured out enough of the clear fluid to half-fill a cup, and drank it quickly. “That is horrendous.” He paused for a moment. “And completely useless.”
Wearily, Nasriel laughed, and shook her head. “I keep it for emergencies – and I usually dilute it. I’m guessing you’ll be buzzed in about a minute, and wasted within five. Go to bed and get some rest.”
“I very much doubt, Padawan,” Obi-Wan said coldly, on the threshold of his room, “that I will feel better in the morning.”
“These things take time,” Nasriel replied softly to the closed door. “These things take time.”